Monterusso is a must!

Wow, Monterosso is our favorite Cinque Terre town and we wish we had visited it sooner! We took the water taxi from Vernazza to Monterusso OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfor the day and it was so much fun. We walked through the markets, windy cobblestone streets that were surprising not has steep as the other Cinque Terre towns,  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and got pizza before going to the West side of town and renting an umbrella and chairs. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was totally worth paying for the space because there were very few people and a spectacular view. The warm was perfect and we could swim along the shoreline for 40 minutes end to end without obstruction! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We highly recommend that anyone wanting to vacation in Cinque Terre get a room in this town, especially if they’re interested in beach time!

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This is the perfect beach setting and the weather was equally as nice!

On the South end of the beach, there was a World War II bunk in the rocks OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA that also had a great view, especially from the top!

We didn’t want our amazing beach day to end, but when we ran out of water, we decided to go back to Vernazza, to change for dinner.

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On the water taxi back from Monterusso

img_7635 Before dinner, Mr. F and I had fun taking pictures of the main piazza of Vernazza from our room! It was like playing, Where’s Waldo?

My college room mate, Emily, recommended this place!

For dinner, we returned to the lovely Ristorante di Castello for a great table and excellent service. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This time we tried the pesto lasagna and the frutti di mare! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My absolute favorite things on the menu is the dessert. We had the tiramisu last time as well as the pistachio mousse, so this time we got the coffee cake and the mousse again! This is one of top favorite desserts of the trip! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Dinner at Ristorante di Castello one more time!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our last sunset in Vernazza was beautiful and we couldn’t be happier!

Portoverne Highlights!

Our day trip Portoverne may have been one of our most favorite parts of our vacation. We took the water taxi from Vernazza at 10am (because apparently that’s the earliest option….)

Excited to get on the ferry!

Excited to get on the ferry!

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Vernazza before 10am...turns out nothing opens until 8am, not even coffee shops

Vernazza before 10am…turns out nothing opens until 8am, not even coffee shops

stopping in Manarola and Riomaggore before arriving in Portoverne before 11am.

The rugged landscape, along the Cinque Terre coastline, looked windswept with the old volcanic flows of basalt dotted with cactus. However as we got closer to Portoverne there were more interesting fortifications!

The Castle in Portoverne

The Castle in Portoverne

We sat on the bow and had the best view of each harbor including the prominent castle above Portoverne.

In Portoverne, we proritized walking the castle grounds

Above Castello Doria

Above Castello Doria

before going on a quick three island ferry at noon to see more of the surrounding area of Portoverne. We loved the red lighthouse high on Palmeria,

Lighthouse on Palmeria

Lighthouse on Palmeria

and the World War II bunkers. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After the boat trip, we wanted to find a non-touristy place for lunch in Portoverne and we totally lucked out by ducking into a restaurant, called Osteria Baracco, off of the beaten path.

We were a little intimidated since it seemed like no one spoke English so we ordered vino bianco, insalata greca and the first pizza on the menu!

We guessed that muscoli was mussels but otherwise had no idea what we ordered!

We guessed that muscoli was mussels but otherwise had no idea what we ordered!

Mussels and eggplant make for an amazing combination on pizza!

Mussels and eggplant make for an amazing combination on pizza!

We had an amazing pizza and ingredients that we’d never thought to combine together!

After lunch, we noticed young people swimming near the castle and thought why not?

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Swimming below Castle Doria in Portoverne

It was a wonderful temperature and way to see the castle from a different perspective. There was a protected cove that we swam in so we had no issues with currents!

We took the water taxi back to Cinque Terre, stopping in Riomaggore for an hour. We saw a bride posing for pictures around town and we went swimming!

Riomaggore (pronounced rio-major-ey)

Riomaggore (pronounced rio-major-ey)

 

Swimming in Riomaggore

Swimming in Riomaggore 

Once we got back to Vernazza we were tired but tried to get a table at Ristorante Belaforte on a friend’s recommendation but there was a huge line and they weren’t taking reservations. Again, we lucked out because we walked up to the other end of town, and had a unobstructed view of the sunset for dinner.

Above Vernazza

Above Vernazza

The service was bad but we had fun anyway! The stuffed mussels and sparkling rose were perfect with the sunset!

The phenomenonal view from Bar la Torre

The phenomenal view from Bar la Torre

Mussels stuffed with ricotta and garlic!

Mussels stuffed with ricotta and garlic!

After sunset from Bar la Torre

After sunset from Bar la Torre

There were no lights on the path back to town, so we carefully picked our way down the rocky steps using the light on my camera (which was very dim) but we fortunately made it down without any twisted ankles or any other issues.

I can’t wait to tell you all about Monterusso and Lucca next!

 

 

Bruschetta & spaghetti al pesto

I highly recommend pesto bruschetta and spaghetti al pesto from Cinque Terre. Yesterday, we got hungry at 5pm and most restaurants are not open for dinner until 7pm, so we got bruschetta with a local wine in Vernazza. Pesto is apparently a regional specialty of Liguria. It’s fresh and lively and so much more flavorful than I’ve had before!

Pesto and tomato bruschetta for the win

Pesto and tomato bruschetta for the win

Tasting local vino bianco

Tasting local vino bianco

The fresh ingredients on the rustic bread went perfectly with our wine too. We tried local varietals including vermentino, bosco, and sciacchetrà. img_7183 They were crisp and refreshing on a warm day, similar to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

We went to Ristorante de Castello for dinner

A table with a view

A table with a view

Sunset from Ristorante di Castello

Sunset from Ristorante di Castello

Mr F's frutti de mare

Mr F’s frutti de mare

Spaghetti al pesto

Spaghetti al pesto

and enjoyed the spaghetti al pesto so much that we’ll return when they’re open again on Thursday. The simple, fresh ingredients in these pasta dishes really make them shine. I love how they’re all olive oil versus cream based and smaller than the average American Italian dish. Monica, the owner, was so happy that we made additional reservations that she gave us 10% off too!

We loved their pistachio mousse for dessert and can’t wait to try more of their confections soon. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hiking and gelato

We woke up early on our third day in Italy and hiked from Manarola through Volestra to Corneglia which took over two and half hours and we had our heavy 35-40 pound backpacks on. The views were expansive and totally worth it.

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Manarola on the start of our hiking trip

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The steep terraced vineyards surrounding Manarola

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Above Manarola

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Halfway to Volestra

We saw several tourists on the trails and between Manarola and Volestra, we met many Americans but more German and British hikers as we approached Corneglia. There was a fun group of single ladies from the US and Canada that we kept leap frogging between Manarola and Corneglia and their guides even gave us a focciceria recommendation for lunch!

Miele (honey) and peach rosemary gelato for me and Mr F got basil with piscastios and ricotta!

Miele (honey) and peach rosemary gelato for me and Mr F got basil with piscastios and ricotta!

After our quick foccacia pizza for lunch, we got gelato, for the first time this trip! Since the hike from Corneglia was another 2 hours, we decided  to take a train to Vernazza.img_7011

Our feet were pretty tired since the majority of the trail was rocky so the short train ride was really nice. We checked into RooMartina (which was recommended by my college room mate, Emily) -!: immediately went swimming!

Swimming in Vernazza after hiking felt glorious!

Swimming in Vernazza after hiking felt glorious!

Vernazza's harbor

Vernazza’s harbor

We wandered around town, through Castello Doria, in the late afternoon!

The view from the top of the castle

The view from the top of the castle

Castle Doria

Castle Doria

I’ll have to tell you all about my fantastic bruschetta and Ristoriante al castello experience, next!

Our second day in Italy

We were still battling jet lag and woke up at 2am and then didn’t fall back asleep until 4am, thus I wrote most of yesterday’s blog post. Unfortunately that meant we slept in until 10:30am on our second full day in Italy. This dashed our long hiking  plans for the day so instead we went to lunch at Nessum Dora overlooking Manarola. It was a lovely view and great food. We really enjoyed the salumi plate or tagliere.

Nessum Dora

Nessum Dora

Best salumi and cheese plate ever!

Best salumi and cheese plate ever!

We went for a brief hike around Manarola before getting too hot and then went for a swim in the Lingurian Sea.

Overlooking Manarola

Overlooking Manarola

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It was so salty that we felt lighter than swimming in the Puget Sound.

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Manarola’s harbor

Mr F swimming in Manarola

Mr F swimming in Manarola

Manarola coast

Manarola coast

After swimming, we walked through the vineyards before

Manarola vineyard hiking

Manarola vineyard hiking

getting ready for dinner at Trattoria dal Billy again. This time we ordered their house specialty, the pasta frutti di mare, or cuttlefish ink black spaghetti with seafood!

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We were so full that we decided to go for a second swim and it was bellisima (beautiful) with the sunset!!

Our evening swim

Our evening swim

Our last night in Manarola was capped off by pictures on the other side of the harbor and now I know why all the tourists camp out on this side for the best pictures!

Manarola after sunset

Manarola after sunset

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Our first two nights and day in Italy

We landed in Pisa at sunset and the thunderhead clouds looked amazing as we flew in over the Lingurian Seaimg_6429 and Arno River.img_6435 Customs was a breeze and all of a sudden, we were in Pisa. We considered walking the 30-40 minutes to our hotel but instead we got a taxi.

After showering for the first time in nearly 24 hours, we had a nice dinner at Omobono, directly behind the hotel. img_6448They had a wonderful bianco vino dalla casa and the pasta and veal was just alright. We wandered around the river and a few streets before calling it an early night.

Our hotel was on a busy street so it was pretty noisy on a Saturday night. However, the river view in the morning was quite stunning.img_6479img_6465 The Royal Victorian Hotel had a lovely breakfast buffet consisting of lots of pastries and endless coffee. We felt like zombies until the 3rd or 4th cup of black coffee. I started with a lovely cappuccino but needed to mainline it, in order to wake up.

Once we felt more human, we braved the rain and walked to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We were fortunate to have brought our Gortex coats and hiking pants, however we still had fun taking pictures.

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Since it was still raining consistently, we decided to go directly to the train station to Manarola, in hopes the rain would clear up on the coast. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe train from Pisa to La Spezia took us through pretty countryside, near mountains and by several marble quarries. We then took a regional train to Cinque Terre and met an extremely talkative young Texas kid, who was also hiking the trails. Foruntately, he confirmed we were on the right train and reminded us when to get off, when it wasn’t immediately obvious.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAimg_6503  Manarola does not disappoint. As soon as we arrived the weather continued to get better just in time for a glorious view on our private deck and a gorgeous sunset over dinner. Our hotel, Aria di Mare is perfectly situated above the tourist zone and high on the terraced hillside for extensive views. We like the clean accommodations so much more than the dated, rustic, first hotel.img_6764img_6772 Before dinner, we enjoyed our panaromic deck with local white wine. img_6766img_6775 At sunset, we walked a few doors down to Trattoria dal Billy for phenomenal antipasto frutti de mare. img_6777img_6781 My favorite was the black crab! img_6786Trattoria del Billy is so amazing that we made reservations to go again!

[Disclaimer: I wrote most of this post due to jet lag,  so please excuse any enthusiastic typos!]

First stop, London, then onto Pisa

img_6397 We’re taking off on our Italian adventure to Cinque Terre! We only brought backpacks and they are heavy! Apparently I brought too many snacks for the plane, because everything else is pretty minimalist!img_6401 img_6403 img_6404 Mr F was super happy that I got the exit row for us and we slept most of the 9 hour flight too. img_6407We’re in Heathrow long enough for a leisurely lunch and it was an easy choice to go to Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food!img_6408 We’re looking forward to going to Gordon Ramsey’s Savoy Grill later in our vacation and getting Beef Wellington!img_6411 img_6412 The Caesar was bright and delicious after our long plane ride. However, Mr F wants to know what Brown Sauce goes on? Chips?img_6414img_6417 He got the burger and I had the wonderful braised lamb! img_6416img_6415 I highly recommend stopping here for lunch, if you have a layover in London. It’s a great start to our vacation and a nice way to spend time before our gate opens!

I’m not sure when I’ll have Wi-Fi next, so ciao for now!